SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Todd Helton figures his 17th season with the Colorado Rockies will be his last.
The 39-year-old first baseman went 0 for 2 in his spring training debut Sunday, a 7-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics. Playing for the first time since hip surgery and a drunk driving arrest, Helton popped up and grounded out at Salt River Fields.
“I felt good. I wished I’d felt better at the plate. My timing wasn’t there,” said Helton, who received a loud and extended ovation from fans. “Now it’s all about getting out there and getting reps. You want to be peaking when you’re breaking camp. My goal is to be ready for the season.”
It’s been a difficult offseason for the longtime Rockies star, who had surgery to repair a torn labrum in August. Entering the final year of his contract, he was arrested and charged with drunken driving last month.
Helton said he starting hitting in late November, two months earlier than usual, to assess his physical and mental feel for the game. He quickly decided he wanted to play in 2013, and the .320 career hitter with 2,420 hits is eager to erase the taste of a .238 season that was shortened to 69 games.
“I wanted to see if I could still swing it a little bit and by the third or fourth (session) I was already getting excited,” Helton said. “My bat speed is still there, but it’s not there consistently. Today I felt great in BP and it’s a matter of trying to get loose and feel good as often as you can.”
Two of Helton’s teammates were so wild on the mound that the A’s barely had to swing to score Sunday.
Oakland had 12 hits but pushed across its first four runs without putting the ball in play. Jorge De La Rosa and Tyler Chatwood combined to issue five walks and hit three batters with pitches in the first three innings. All three A’s were plunked with the bases loaded — Michael Choice in the first, and Daric Barton and Scott Sizemore in the third. Adam Rosales also drew a bases-loaded walk in the third.
De La Rosa, coming off Tommy John surgery last year but slated to be Colorado’s No. 2 starter, struggled for the second straight start. He threw 38 pitches in the first inning and allowed two hits and three walks before hitting Choice with a pitch.
“We’ll have some patience with Jorge because he hasn’t been out there much the last year and a half,” Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. “But we’re counting on him and he knows that. We have another month, so we’re not going to get too carried away. It wasn’t real pretty, but he’s got time to figure things out.”
Oakland starter A.J. Griffin pitched three innings and allowed three hits, including Nolan Arenado’s third homer of the spring and second in two days.
Griffin, who made 15 starts and won seven of eight decisions with a 3.06 ERA after he was called up by the A’s last season, has allowed one run over five innings in his first two spring starts.
“I could have been better at keeping the ball down, but overall I was aggressive and I didn’t have a three-ball count all day,” Griffin said. “I felt like I was sharper in the last inning and threw more changeups and curveballs. Now it’s about building innings.”
David Fretias homered and Chris Young had an RBI single for the A’s. Sizemore had two hits.
Arenado added a run-scoring groundout in the seventh and leads the Rockies with seven RBIs this spring.